The United NationsGenocide Convention, which was established in 1948, defines genocide as "acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such" including the killing of its members, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, deliberately imposing living conditions that seek to "bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part", preventing births, or forcibly transferring children out of the group to another group. Victims have to be deliberately, not randomly, targeted because of their real or perceived membership of one of the four groups outlined in the above definition.
The Political Instability Task Force estimated that, between 1956 and 2016, a total of 43 genocides took place, causing the death of about 50million people. The UNHCR estimated that a further 50million had been displaced by such episodes of violence up to 2008.
Image 1Bones of anti-Nazi German women still are in the crematoriums in the German concentration camp at Weimar (Buchenwald), Germany, taken by the 3rd U.S. Army. Prisoners of all nationalities were tortured and killed. 04/14/1945
Image 2Original caption states: "Deep gashes delivered by the killers are visible in the skulls that fill one room at the Murambi School." Aftermath of Rwandan genocide.
Image 3"A relic of the Armenian massacres at Erzingan", image taken from US Ambassador Henry Morgenthau's memoirs (1918).
International prosecution of genocide (ad hoc tribunals)
It is commonly accepted that, at least since World War II, genocide has been illegal under customary international law as a peremptory norm, as well as under conventional international law. Acts of genocide are generally difficult to establish, for prosecution, since intent, demonstrating a chain of accountability, has to be established. International criminal courts and tribunals function primarily because the states involved are incapable or unwilling to prosecute crimes of this magnitude themselves.
International prosecution of genocide (International Criminal Court)
To date all international prosecutions for genocide have been brought in specially convened international tribunals. Since 2002, the International Criminal Court can exercise its jurisdiction if national courts are unwilling or unable to investigate or prosecute genocide, thus being a "court of last resort," leaving the primary responsibility to exercise jurisdiction over alleged criminals to individual states. Due to the United States concerns over the ICC, the United States prefers to continue to use specially convened international tribunals for such investigations and potential prosecutions.